It’s been the usual helter-skelter start to the Championship season, but after three games there are some good pointers to which sides can compete and which teams are going to struggle. Norwich and Brighton head the early table after two wins and a draw each, and those two look capable of fighting it out for promotion over the course of a gruelling season. Newcastle suffered back-to-back defeats in their first two games, but finally got three points on the board with a 4-1 victory over Reading. Magpies fans will hope that result kickstarts the season and sees them climb up the table.
At the other end Blackburn are struggling, as we predicted, and three defeats from three games involving own goals and red cards has put them firmly at the bottom of the pile. The only other side yet to register a point is Preston, and it doesn’t get any easier for them as they travel to QPR on the weekend.
Another team that has caught the eye over last season and this is Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls started with a win and a draw before suffering defeat at promoted Burton Albion, but there are reasons to believe they can bounce back at home to Leeds on Saturday. Newcastle travel to Bristol City, and they are a tempting price to register their first away win of the season. However, the only place to start is with the game of the weekend at Ipswich, when the Tractor Boys welcome local rivals Norwich to Portman Road.
Norwich v Ipswich
The Canaries have won five of the last six derbies dating back to 2010, and they’ve won on two of their last three visits to Portman Road. A good start to the season has seen them beat Blackburn and Bristol City, while they were held to a 0-0 draw by Sheffield Wednesday. They’ve conceded just a single goal so far – a Blackburn consolation in the opening day 4-1 victory.
Ipswich have over-performed under Mick McCarthy in the Championship, considering their squad limitations, and another decent season beckons. They just missed out on a play off place last year, after losing to Norwich in the previous season’s play offs, and a top six finish will be the target again. They started the season with a 4-2 home win over Barnsley, but since then have lost to Stevenage in the EFL Cup, to Brentford in the league, and were held to a 0-0 draw by Wolves in midweek.
Derby matches can often be hard to call due to their fiery nature, but Norwich have the hoodoo over Ipswich in recent seasons, and there is a clear gap in quality among the playing staff of the two clubs.
Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds
Wednesday are -120 with Marathonbet to beat Leeds in the Saturday lunchtime kick off, and we’re siding with the Owls.
Leeds have amassed just one point from their three Championship matches so far, and it looks like another tumultuous season in store. Ownership issues have plagued the club in recent years, and with various deals breaking down over the last few months, things are very much still up in the air. Die-hard Leeds fans continue to protest against current owner Massimo Cellino, and former Swansea boss Garry Monk has his work cut out under trying circumstances.
They opened their account with a 3-0 defeat at QPR, before going down 2-1 at home to Birmingham. It looked like being three losses in a row when Fulham took the lead at Elland Road in midweek, but an injury-time equaliser gave Leeds their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw.
Sheffield Wednesday were losing play off finalists last year, and they are determined to go one better this time around. They had a tough start against two relegated Premier League clubs, but a 1-0 win over Aston Villa and a 0-0 away draw at Norwich are respectable results. That all changed with the 3-1 defeat at newly-promoted Burton Albion during the week, but the Owls are good enough to bounce back at home to a Leeds side in disarray.
Bristol City v Newcastle
Marathonbet also stand out at the odds for a Newcastle win at +134 when they travel to Bristol City on Saturday afternoon.
Newcastle were expected to do much better than they have at the start of this Championship season, but two early defeats at the hands of Fulham and Huddersfield reinforced just how tough this division is. Rafa Benitez will have been delighted on Wednesday night then, when his side turned it around and ran out 4-1 winners over Reading at St James’ Park. Two of his summer signings – Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle – were on the scoresheet, with the latter bagging a brace. The feelgood factor should be back at the club and Bristol City may not offer too much resistance.
That may sound harsh on a side that has gained six points from two wins and a defeat so far, but those victories came against two promoted sides in Wigan and Burton, and City were comfortably second best at Norwich in midweek. One of the big problems for this City side last season was the goals conceded column, and they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their three Championship games this season. Newcastle have the firepower to cause problems, and with the belief back, they can start their ascent up the table.
Norwich to beat Ipswich
Sunday 21st August, 12:00 GMT
Sheffield Wednesday to beat Leeds
Saturday 20th August, 12:30 GMT
Newcastle to beat Bristol City
Saturday 20th August, 15:00 GMT
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